There are currently 45 Democratic co-sponsors in the House, many if not most of whom are in the CPC, but the endorsement could easily double the number of co-sponsors. In the Senate, where the bill is sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, there are just two others: Tina Smith of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren, also of Massachusetts.
The House bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, welcomed the influential supporters. “The critical issues that impact our day-to-day lives―such as voting and civil rights, reproductive freedom, climate justice, and consumer and workers’ rights—are being decided by a GOP-packed conservative supermajority on a United States Supreme Court, which is destroying its own legitimacy with partisan decisions that are upending decades of precedent and progress in this nation,” he said. “I want to thank Chair Jayapal and the entire Progressive Caucus for endorsing and supporting the Judiciary Act.”
It’s a simple proposition, though it has yet to gain traction in the Senate: Increase the number of justices on the court. This touching remembrance from Murshed Zaheed, former staffer to Harry Reid, provided a good reminder that even Reid, a committed institutionalist, became convinced that it was essential. And at the same time, it’s not the unthinkably huge deal Republicans want you to think it is.
“First of all, the Supreme Court is not a static body. It’s not always been nine members—they have had five, eight, different numbers,” Reid said back in September 2020. “I think it’s time that we did something after the election, something very publicly. We should hold some hearings, educate the public about this history. We should show that we’ve changed the number of Justices in the past, and we may have to do it again.” That was just days after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, before Amy Coney Barrett was crammed into the seat days before the election and while people were casting votes in early voting.
That needs to happen before the next election, this year. That’s probably part of the timing of the CPC’s announcement. “After a series of major breakthroughs in 2021, The Judiciary Act is kicking off 2022 with another major endorsement, showing more and more Democrats understand it is the only way to restore balance to the Supreme Court,” Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group leading the charge on the issue, said Wednesday. “With this endorsement, the CPC is giving a major boost to the only reform bold enough to rebalance a Supreme Court that currently threatens any progress on issues progressives care about.”
“We are thrilled to see the Progressive Caucus under Chairwoman Jayapal, push the movement for Court expansion forward, and applaud Representative Hank Johnson for his leadership on this legislation,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, executive director of Take Back the Court Action Fund. “Progress on everything from reproductive freedom, to voting rights, to climate change, racial justice, immigration, and the future of democracy itself, requires us to rebalance this Court. And today’s endorsement from the Progressive Caucus is a loud and clear message that we will not let this hyperpartisan 6-3 stolen Court stand in the way of that progress. We will meet the urgency of the moment and expand the Court.”
Court expansion is not going to happen overnight. But it has gone from what the general establishment has viewed as a whacky hippie idea to a valid reform option to restore balance to the country’s highest court. Which means it’s that much closer to actually happening.